By G9ija

The federal government yesterday disclosed of a planned decongestion of Correctional Centres across the country.

The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), made the disclosure during a virtual interactive session with Attorney Generals and Commissioners of Justice of the 36 states and Heads of Courts in the country.

The interactive session was organised by the Presidential Committee on Correctional Service Reform and Decongestion (PCCSRD) with the theme: ‘Implementing Amnesty and Decongestion for Juvenile Deprived of their Liberty during COVID-19 and Beyond’.

Speaking at the occasion, Malami, who further disclosed that 3,751 inmates have so far been released since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, said all stakeholders must come together to achieve a desired purpose.

According to him, “Considering the vulnerability and susceptibility of juveniles deprived of liberty in locked facilities, correctional centres, ‘borstal’ homes, including those detained with their parents or caregivers, and those detained on national security grounds, to contract the coronavirus due to the congested environment they are detained in, the ministry classifies this second phase of the said exercise to be very strategic in achieving Juvenile Justice Reform and attaining Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aims to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development; provide justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

“I wish to underpin the importance of this intervention exercise, which is aptly focused on juveniles, by stating its relevance to the effective implementation of some of the provisions of the Nigerian Correctional Service Act, 2019, especially section 35, that clearly stipulates provisions on juvenile offenders.’’

In his welcome address, the Chairman of the PCCSRD and the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello, assured that the Custodial and Non-Custodial Sentencing Practice Direction, 2020, will be signed into law in October this year.

According to the Chief Judge, the second phase of the Correctional Service Centres decongestion exercise will be a blueprint for the initiation of a longer and more sustainable system to reduce arbitrary incarceration of juvenile by adopting diversionary measure in the justice system in Nigeria.

“I am glad to inform you all that the said sentencing guideline will be signed by me and issued in October 2020, as the Federal Capital Territory Courts (Custodial and Non-Custodial Sentencing) Practice Direction, 2020.

‘’It is my belief that the said practice direction will go a long way in addressing some of the concerns of juvenile inmates which align with international standards, as contained in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Child Rights Act, 2003, that promotes the adoption of non-custodial measures, while reinforcing detention as an option of last resort for juvenile offenders,’’ he said.